tem·​po·​rize ˈtem-pə-ˌrīz How to pronounce temporize (audio)
temporized; temporizing

intransitive verb

: to act to suit the time or occasion : yield to current or dominant opinion
: to draw out discussions or negotiations so as to gain time
you'd have to temporize until you found out how she wanted to be advisedMary Austin
temporization noun
temporizer noun

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Is it Time to temporize?

Temporize comes from the Medieval Latin verb temporizare ("to pass the time"), which itself comes from the Latin noun tempus, meaning "time." Tempus is also the root of such words as tempo, contemporary, and temporal. If you need to buy some time, you might resort to temporizing—but you probably won't win admiration for doing so. Temporize can have a somewhat negative connotation. For instance, a political leader faced with a difficult issue might temporize by talking vaguely about possible solutions without actually doing anything. The point of such temporizing is to avoid taking definite—and possibly unpopular—action, in hopes that the problem will somehow go away. But the effect is often just to make matters worse.

Examples of temporize in a Sentence

Pressured by voters on both sides of the issue, the congressmen temporized.
Recent Examples on the Web Romney's Cass took Obama to task for opposing development of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and for temporizing on the Keystone pipeline, while Obama's Aldy accused Romney of being insensitive to the environment and to the needs and desires of future generations. IEEE Spectrum, 9 Oct. 2012 Accompanying these principles must be a rejection of the impulse to temporize about the dangers that confront us and a rejection of the bizarre deprecation of our nation and civilization. Peter J. Travers, National Review, 29 Mar. 2022 Even groups long noted for opposing nuclear power, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Sierra Club, seem quietly ready to temporize on practical matters, such as allowing existing plants to continue as transitional energy sources. Andrew Cockburn, Harper’s Magazine , 4 Jan. 2022 But in the aftermath of the Georgia victories, which gave their party control of the Senate, congressional Democrats were in no mood to temporize. Los Angeles Times, 13 Apr. 2021 Otherwise, the overriding temptation will be to delay, to temporize. Noam Cohen, WIRED, 18 July 2019 Successive political generations of leaders of nuclear powers have temporized impotently or even mischievously assisted these elements, as Pakistan has assisted Iran and North Korea, who have assisted each other. Conrad Black, National Review, 21 Sep. 2017 This is a president who, when Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his people, did not temporize. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, 5 July 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'temporize.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Middle French temporiser, temporisier "to last, pass one's life, postpone, gain time," probably borrowed from Medieval Latin temporizāre "to delay," from Latin tempor-, tempus "time, period of time" + Medieval Latin -izāre -ize — more at tempo

First Known Use

1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of temporize was in 1579


Dictionary Entries Near temporize

Cite this Entry

“Temporize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temporize. Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


tem·​po·​rize ˈtem-pə-ˌrīz How to pronounce temporize (audio)
temporized; temporizing
: to act to suit the time or occasion : compromise
: to draw out discussions so as to gain time : delay

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